The previous MacBook Pros were very good indeed. They delivered consistently professional quality and great features. Reviewing next generation MacBook Pros is therefore something of a treat.
An initial glance at the latest models shows nothing new. This isn’t disappointing: the sturdy casings and the smart design are exactly what you want from a superior laptop. The keyboard appears tidier – the result of some minor changes – but apart from that, everything looks as impressive as it always has.
This might suggest that any internal changes are also minor. Not so. When you fire up the MacBook Pros and start putting each model through its paces, you soon realise you’re working with machines that excel expectations.
To begin with, the processors are Intel 45 nanometer Penryns. These are noticeably faster than the 65 nanometer Meroms installed in the older MacBook Pros, and easily beat the Meroms in all benchmark tests.
The standard processors for the two 15 inch MacBook Pros are 2.4GHz and 2.5GHz Intel Core 2 Duos. The 17 inch has the 2.5GHz. Allied to these are enhanced hard drives of 200GB for the 15 inch 2.4GHz, and 250GB for the 15 inch and 17 inch 2.5 GHz.
Of particular interest to the multimedia user is the doubling of the video memory on all three MacBook Pros. The 15 inch 2.4GHz has a NVIDIA GeForce 8600M GT with 256MB, and the 15 inch 2.5GHz and 17 inch 2.5GHz have the same graphics processor but with 512MB.
2GB of RAM supports the above technology across the range. The overall results are laptops that cope easily with advanced graphics and audio applications.
HardwareEach of the three MacBook Pros comes with standard hardware, such as:
- slot-loading 8x double-layer SuperDrive
- iSight camera
- AirPort Extreme and Bluetooth® wireless connections
- stereo speakers
- FireWire 400 and 800 ports
- USB 2.0 ports (two on the 15 inch models; three on the 17 inch)
- DVI port
- Audio ports
- Gigabit Ethernet port
- ExpressCard/34 slot
There are also hardware “extras” that help the MacBook Pro stand out from the crowd. These include a powerful lithium-polymer battery; an ambient light sensor that illuminates the keyboard in dark conditions; and an energy-saving LED backlit screen.
These screens are mercury-free and anti-glare, and have resolutions of 1,440 x 900 pixels for the 15 inch models and 1,680 x 1,050 pixels for the 17 inch. With both you have bright, natural and pin sharp images.
Perhaps the best hardware extra of all, though, is the new MacBook Pro trackpad. This now has the multi-touch functions that have proved so popular on the iPhone. By pinching, swiping and rotating your fingers on the trackpad, you have remarkably fast and positive control over the features of the MacBook Pro’s creative software.
Multi-touch does give rise to a slight problem: the size of the trackpad may feel a little small for someone learning the appropriate gestures. That said, once you’re familiar with multi-touch, it’s not difficult to work within the trackpad’s boundaries.
As with all new Macs, the MacBook Pro comes with the best operating system around, the Mac OS X v10.5 Leopard. If you’ve never used Leopard before, its proficiency will delight you. If you’re already a Mac user, you still have something to please you because the new MacBook Pros boost the speed of Leopard and the applications that run off it.
Among these applications is Apple’s latest version of the world’s fastest browser, Safari. This comes with the usual batch of updated Apple software such as Boot Camp, Mail, iChat, iTunes, DVD Player, iPhoto and iLife ’08.
Experienced MacBook Pro users can load their preferred applications on these latest models and immediately notice the improvements in speed. For example, you can set up Photoshop CS3 in approximately eight seconds on the 15 inch 2.5GHz. You’ll then go on to discover Photoshop runs 20 – 25% faster than a 2007 2.6 GHz MacBook Pro.
Compared to a 2006 MacBook Pro, the differences are even greater. Overall, you can experience speed increases of around 50% across a range of applications. This is good news for all those who want maximum performance from a laptop.
With any laptops designed for professional use, it’s always worth looking at the manufacturer’s options because some people will need a buffer zone of extra speed and power for specific applications.
The configuration options of the MacBook Pro are unlikely to let you down. To give you extra power, you can request a 2.6GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor upgrade for either the 2.5 GHz 15 inch or 17 inch models. As for RAM, you can upgrade any of the three MacBook Pros to 4GB.
On the 17 inch MacBook Pro, you might want to increase the hard drive to 300GB to provide additional room for space-stealing graphics applications. Similarly, you can ensure the perfect clarity of your images by asking for a 1,920 x 1,200 pixel screen for the same model.
Finally, if you prefer a glossy rather than anti-glare matt screen, you can request this when you place your order.
With all these upgrades packed into the same shells as the previous MacBook Pro models, you might anticipate a rise in prices. If you do, you’d be wrong. The new MacBook Pros are unquestionably better machines but the prices across the range haven’t changed. The old MacBook Pros were good value, but the latest incarnations are simply excellent for the price.
Want the best laptops from a great manufacturer? Look no further.
- Speedier than the previous generation of MacBook Pros
- Double the video memory
- Smooth, multi-touch features on the trackpad
- Improved battery life
- Excellent configuration options
- More for your money: no price increase compared to the older MacBook Pro equivalents
- Trackpad may be a little small for novice users